To any supporter attending Priory Park over the last few years, Tom Eaton is a household name. He may still be a relatively young man, but it feels like Tom has been part of the Macclesfield Blues’ set up for ages. Whether as a young and enthusiastic player, or as an inspirational captain, Tom would forgive us saying he’s been round the block a few times. However, things are about to change. Tom may still be playing for the Blues this season, but he is also taking on a new role and more responsibility as the team’s Skills Coach. Will this added responsibility change him as a player? Will we see a different Tom Eaton on the pitch this year? It would appear not. In Tom’s opinion he’ll still be the same feisty player when he crosses the whitewash, but feels the added responsibility can only serve to make him a better and more complete player. Here’s what Tom had to say when he spoke to Macclesfield Rugby earlier this week.
Were you surprised when you were approached to be part of the new coaching team?
“I wasn’t really surprised as such, as I’d been thinking about the move for a while and had mentioned to Giles last year that I was interested in building my coaching experience. I wanted to broaden my rugby knowledge and challenge myself in different ways whilst continuing to play. So I was very pleased when Giles asked me if I wanted to join the coaching team this year. I think it’s probably the right time for me to take that step up. I still want to keep on playing for another year or two, but I’d like to broaden my rugby experience. Even when I eventually stop playing I would like to remain within rugby, so coaching is the obvious route I guess.”
Would Skills Coach have been your preferred choice, or were you happy to take on any role in the coaching structure?
“I came into this with a completely open mind. I was happy to do whatever was needed and to help out wherever I could if it would benefit the team. Giles believes that my particular skillset makes Skills Coach the right sort of role for me. Giles deals with coaching the backs, so my role is to support Giles in what he’s trying to achieve. I think things are working out well so far: I’ve taken the backs once or twice in training and worked with them, and Giles has done the same sort of thing on other occasions. What we’re trying to do is fix on the most effective way of working together that will benefit the team best. As far as I can tell it’s so far, so good.”
What sort of qualities do you think you can bring to the role of Skills Coach?
“I think the one quality that I do bring above all others is experience. I’ve played over 300 league games at National 1 and National 2 level, and believe I can use that extensive experience to help some of the younger players we’re bringing into the squad from local clubs and schools like Kings, Macclesfield. I’ve also captained the Club for the last couple of seasons so I’ve picked up a lot of leadership experience there, on top of what I also learned from both Geoff Wappett and Andy Northey over the years. If I can pass on some of that knowledge and wisdom to the younger lads, then I’ll feel I’m doing my job well.”
Will your new responsibilities affect the way you play the game, or will the coaching experience enhance your knowledge of the game and help to develop you further as a player?
“I guess only time will tell, but as it stands I don’t see that it will change all that much. Maybe I won’t necessarily be playing quite as much as before, but other than that I can’t see it affecting my game significantly. I’ll still be the same player, and play the game the way I’ve always done. Of course it will be different, of that I’ve no doubts, but I’m just as eager to get back on the pitch as a player/coach as I have always been as a player. I can’t see that my new coaching responsibilities should force me to change or alter the way I play. Lots of other people have successfully combined the two roles in the past, so I don’t see why I can’t do the same. If anything I think combining the two roles might actually help me to develop further, and make me a more complete player.”